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Men’s lacrosse: Duke, Wolf (L. Merion) hold off late Delaware rally, 15-14, in first round of NCAA playoffs

Saturday, 14th May 2011

Categories Boy's/Men's, College, Posted 5/14/11
From Press Releases

The Blue Hen men’s lacrosse team ran out of comebacks Saturday night and left Koskinen Stadium wishing they had just a few more valuable seconds to play.

While moral victories are certainly not in the Blue Hens’ vocabulary, this one came close as the Blue Hens battled back from deficits all day long and fell just short in suffering a 15-14 NCAA Tournament first round setback to host and defending national champion Duke.

The No. 14 ranked Blue Hens (11-7), who captured the Colonial Athletic Association title last week and were making their second straight NCAA Tournament appearance, rallied back from a 6-1 deficit to start the game and almost posted a miraculous comeback victory after trailing four goals with less than four minutes left to play before coming up just short. The Hens were down by at least four goals in every quarter before rallying each time.

“I just wish we had just 20 more seconds,” said Delaware head coach Bob Shillinglaw, who was looking to post his 300th career victory Saturday night while leading the Blue Hens to their sixth NCAA Tournament. “I couldn’t be more proud of these guys. Our guys played their hearts out and just never quit. The experience this team had this year and the effort they gave day in and day out… was tough getting the words out after the game.”

After Duke went up 15-10 with 4:50 left to play, the Blue Hens stormed back as Grant Kaleikau and Eric Smith scored 12 seconds apart the Taylor Burns scored twice in the final 3:15, including a goal with 19 seconds left that cut the gap to one-goal. Delaware’s Dan Cooney won the ensuing faceoff but had the ball knocked away in a scramble. Delaware regained possession but a length of the field shot just before the final horn sounded was off the mark by several yards.

Duke, the defending national champion who came into the game ranked sixth nationally and holding the tournament’s No. 5 seed, improved to 13-4 with the win and advance to the NCAA quarterfinals next Sunday when they will take on No. 4 seed Notre Dame in a Foxborough, Mass. in a rematch of last year’s national championship game. The Fighting Irish advanced Saturday with a 13-6 win over Penn.

Kaleikau led the high-octane Blue Hen offense with three goals and three assists while Smith, who scored a point in every game this season, had two goals and two assists, Burns and Sean Finegan each scored twice, and Kevin Kaminski (Strath Haven) scored a goal and dished out an assist. Delaware outshot the Blue Devils 40-30 and thanks to Cooney held a 19-13 advantage on faceoffs.

Zach Howell led Duke with four goals and an assist while freshman Jordan Wolf (Lower Merion) added three goals and two assists and Josh Offit contributed two goals and an assist. Sophomore defenseman Billy Conners (Malvern Prep) also scored once. Goalkeeper Mike Rock, who got the start in goal with regular Dan Wigrizer (Haverford School) out with a concussion, recorded 12 saves to pick up the win.

The loss marked the second straight year that the Blue Hens gave an Atlantic Coast Conference power all it could handle before falling short. Last season Delaware dropped a 14-13 decision to fourth-ranked North Carolina in the first round.

The Hens made a habit much of the season of bouncing back to win games after falling behind early, most notably in a mid-season 7-6 win over CAA rival Towson when Delaware rallied for the win after going down 5-0 early.

Delaware went down 5-0 to Duke on Saturday as the Blue Devils stormed out immediately, beating Delaware goalkeeper Noah Fossner (five saves) for four goals in the first four minutes of action. Duke increased the lead to 6-1 and held leads of 7-1 and 9-3 in the second quarter before Delaware rallied, eventually cutting the margin to 9-7 at the break. The score could have been even closer if the Hens had not hit the pipe on five shots during the half.

“When we got down early, we just stayed positive,” said Kaleikau, a second team All-CAA attackman who led the team with 30 assists this season, including 10 in three post-season games. “We’ve been there before and knowing that helped out a lot. We got on a run and didn’t look back but we could never get over the hump. We just couldn’t get that last one.”

Despite all the fireworks, the Blue Hens never did hold the lead the entire game. After Duke built the 9-3 lead with 9:10 remaining in the first half, the Hens scored the final four goals of the stanza with Kaminski and Smith scoring six seconds apart and Kaleikau converting with just 1:27 remaining.

A goal by Delaware redshirt freshman John Mills just three minutes into the third quarter cut the lead 9-8, but Duke answered with goals by Offit, Josh Dionne, and Bill Conners to push the lead back to four at 12-8. Offit’s goal with 7:37 left in the stanza ended a Duke scoring drought that lasted over 16 minutes.

Duke, which has now won four of its last five games, extended the lead back to five at 13-8 when CJ Costabile scored just seven seconds into the final stanza. The goal came immediately after a 45-minute game delay due to lightning that hit the Durham area at the end of the third period.

After Costabile’s goal, the Hens came back once again. Freshman Brenden Gilson and Kaleikau scored two minutes apart to narrow the gap to 13-10 but Duke responded with two goals by the Howell, the second with 4:50 left that pushed the lead to 15-10 and appeared to put the game away.

But in a game like this, no lead was safe. Delaware made one last push for the upset as Kaleikau took a feed from Dom Sebastiani and scored with 3:45 left and Smith followed just 12 seconds later to cut the lead to 15-12. Burns scored his first goal off a Smith feed at the 3:16 mark, and after a timeout by Duke, cut the lead to one with a goal with 19 seconds left. Unfortunately for the Hens, the comeback would end there.

“I’m very proud to be a part of this team,” said senior defender Pat Dowling, a four-time All-CAA selection who played in two NCAA Tournament games. “When we went down 5-0, I’m sure everyone thought this game was over. It’s a bittersweet feeling. We lost the game but this has been an incredible experience and still feel a great sense of accomplishment.”

HEN SCRATCHINGS: Shillinglaw was looking to become just the third active NCAA Division I head coach to reach the 300-win mark and join Georgetown’s Dave Urick and Virginia’s Dom Starsia…Delaware and Duke were meeting for the first time since Duke posted a 12-6 win at Koskinen Stadium in 2007…Delaware senior co-captain Nick Elsmo, a second-year transfer from Virginia, played in the NCAA Tournament all four years of his career, including helping the Cavs advance to the national semifinals in 2008 and 2009…Kaminski ends his career as Delaware’s all-time leader in games played with 71…Delaware’s 14 goals was its highest total since defeating Dartmouth 14-11 back on Apr. 12…Delaware entered the NCAA Tournament as the only team among the 16 participants that had been outscored for the entire season.


Scoring Summary (Goals-Assists):
Delaware – Grant Kaleikau, 3-3; Eric Smith, 2-2; Taylor Burns, 2-0; Sean Finegan, 2-0; Kevin Kaminski, 1-1; Nick Diachenko, 1-0; John Mills, 1-0; Brenden Gilson, 1-0; Justin Martinelli, 1-0; Dom Sebastiani, 0-2; Dan Cooney, 0-1; Anthony Ruiz, 0-1.
Duke – Zach Howell, 4-1; Jordan Wolf, 3-2; Josh Offit, 2-1; Tom Montelli, 1-1; Robert Rotanz, 1-0; CJ Costabile, 1-0; Bill Conners, 1-0; Josh Dionne, 1-0; Jake Tripucka, 1-0; David Lawson, 0-1; Justin Turri, 0-1; Christian Walsh, 0-1.

Shots: Delaware – 40, Duke – 30; Saves: Delaware – 5 (Noah Fossner), Duke – 12 (Mike Rock); Groundballs: Delaware – 36, Duke – 36; Faceoffs:  Delaware – 19, Duke – 13; Turnovers: Delaware – 20, Duke – 21; Clears: Delaware – 17 of 21, Duke – 16 of 20; Penalties: Delaware – 5 for 3:30, Duke – 4 fort 3:00; Extra Man Goals: Delaware – 1 for 4, Duke, 1 for 5

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